Behind every man who achieves greatness, behind every woman who surpasses all expectations, behind every soul who, not content with a mere basic existence, reaches out to the distant stars, yearning to grasp even the slightest sliver of their transcendent luminous radiance; behind each stand a myriad of others who made the journey possible, toiling in nameless obscurity at meaningless, tedious, mindlessly repetitive but essential tasks, their vital contributions neither noted nor remembered… people like Howard Quentin Blankenmiller, whose story it is.
This entry, from perennial contestant Steve Lauducci, was among the winners of this year’s Lehigh Valley version of the Bulwer-Lytton International Fiction Contest, a decades-old mecca for the world’s best bad writers.
Lauducci is one of many local writers who have been recognized in San Jose State University’s Real Bulwer-Lytton Competition, named after Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer Lytton from the immortal opening line that begins with “It was a dark and stormy night…” The goal of both the real contest and my own pale imitation is to write the first line of the worst novel possible.
As this year’s 11th edition proved once again, we have a lot of talent here, including some newcomers. I am so grateful to all of you who participated.
Despite the emergence of several promising new writers, the contest was dominated by two veterans who had proven their talent time and time again in previous contests. In fact, one of them is my first repeat winner. More on that person – and the unveiling of our 2022 champion and top runners-up – in two weeks.
Just a quick note on judging. I received 111 sentences, which included multiple attempts from some authors, not all of whom are from this region. I narrowed them down to what I thought were the top 25 and put them through a team of judges, each voting for their top five in order. Then I compiled the results.
For the first time ever, my top three coincided with the top three selected by our judges, but not in exactly the same order. Yet there was such a disparity of opinions that each judge chose a different sentence for the top spot.
Among the newcomers to our top ranks was Karen Kelly, who received a vote for first place and finished fifth with this entry:
Trudy’s feet were killing her as she waited in the long line of people, remembering the thrill of being in front last time and excitedly telling the people lined up behind her that it was her favorite turn, until that she can finally place her order for a strawberry margarita from the free open bar at the Rabenolds’ wedding reception.
A somewhat familiar pun was deftly woven into the sentence of newcomer Paula Ferry, who finished sixth and also received a vote for first place:
With his newly acquired hairpiece (style #1868, Deluxe Extravaganza: Burnished Copper), securely attached to his noggin, Arnie was walking briskly and confidently with his head held high, when suddenly a shiver gripped him so hard he almost kicked himself. knocked out with the grim realization that when the wigmaker’s bill came due, there would be a hell of a cheek.
A third rookie in the winners ranks, Guy Bruno, finished seventh and got a runner-up vote for this one:
As Fred stood there, palms sweating, knees knocking, still nervous about yet another job interview, he wondered how good he’d be at making mocha lattes, and how two-year-old have passed since those incompetent board members of the medical association insisted that he was not fit to operate on people’s brains.
Lauducci tied it for seventh place with this sentence, also the recipient of a second-place vote:
Loretta decided to put Malcolm firmly out of her mind and focus on Zoom training for her new job…even though it wasn’t easy to stay focused since the presenter was using one of those back-end tricks. active plan…bright magenta, mostly. .. only she was moving so much that the software had trouble keeping up … and there was a poster or something behind her … with some kind of face on it … which further confused the software so that the face kept popping up…hovering just over the presenter’s shoulder…a digital parasite hovering over every word she said, saying nothing, doing nothing but demanding to be noticed, insisting on drawing all the attention to himself…and there she is, thinking back to Malcolm.
Our last-place winner, Jyotin Sachdev, last reached these ranks in 2014. He returned with what longtime readers may recognize as a shameless submission to one of the judges — who, by the way, by the way, didn’t put it in his top five.
The drudgery of another long spurious attempt at gluttony was front and center in Wan Wilhelm’s lobus frontalis as he dragged his congested anatomy down the cobbled main street he once walked in the triumphant glory of his gluttonous conquests while triggering the light fandango with rising horns and resounding trumpets of his Musikfest Destiny.
See you next time for the best of the worst.
Bill White can be reached at [email protected] His Twitter handle is whitebil.